Can Yoga Improve Back Pain?

Back Pain Can Be Serious

Everyone suffers from some sort of back pain from time to time, but when the pain doesn’t go away after three months, it is considered chronic and becomes terribly difficult to treat. Ask any doctor of any type, and they’ll tell you that the best way to treat any pain is to prevent it from happening in the first place. In the case of back pain, the goal is to treat it before it becomes chronic.

Jumping on the Yoga Bandwagon

According to, yoga is more popular than ever. It is estimated that the number of Americans practicing yoga grew 50% between 2012 and 2016 and in 2018, it was reported that number grew to about 36 million Americans. The number of people in their 50s using yoga on a regular basis has actually tripled. About one in three people in the U.S. have tried the art of yoga at least once. Why this sudden increase? The top reasons given is the need for better flexibility, stress relief and pain relief.

Can Yoga Really Help?

While some patients will benefit from the use of over-the-counter pain medicines and traditional physical therapy, more and more people are opening up to the idea of using yoga. And good news — the research appears to be supporting claims that yoga can be good for the back.

“Yoga or intensive stretching can help reduce low back pain,” says “It can also help reduce your stress and make you sleep better.”

Yoga helps to relieve pain by reducing spasms, increase flexibility, strengthen muscles and bones and increase range of motion. True believers in yoga also believe that it can help sharpen the mind, make one more self-aware and can help to bring on a calming sensation. It stands to reason, if one is without pain, one would be calm.

It’s All In Your Head

In a study by the National Institutes of Health, scientists found differences between the brains of people suffering from chronic pain and brains of people who practiced yoga regularly. According to the report, we humans have some brain tissue that helps them tolerate pain, but those who practice yoga have more of the good stuff (NCBI).

Where to Begin with Yoga and Back Pain

Dr. Loren Fishman is a back pain specialist who not only a proponent of yoga, he also prescribes it to many of his patients believing that the practice is an “ideal preventative” to chronic pain. While it is nearly impossible to avoid all pain, much like it is almost impossible to avoid getting a cold, Fishman says that “prevention constitutes cure” (

But it doesn’t take a doctor for one to understand that if performed incorrectly, yoga could actually make things worse.

“If you suffer from back or neck pain, some preliminary knowledge is in order to help keep your yoga practice safe, productive, and tailored to your specific needs,” says Anne Ansher of Very Well Health. She goes on further to say “You, your teacher and friends, and your fellow yogis may mean well with their suggestions, but unfortunately, this does not guarantee the experience is a good fit for you. It does not even guarantee that you will be able to do everything safely” (Very Well Health).

It Takes Two (Types of Yoga)

There are two types of yoga — Hatha and Lyengar. According to Harvard Health, the most common one practiced in America is Hatha yoga which involves a combination of poses, controlled breathing and meditation or deep relaxation. Lyengar yoga is similar, but it practitioners make use of props to help them get a good stretch. Either one can be good choice if done correctly and that’s a big “if.”

Ansher suggests starting with a Hatha yoga style and sticking with “rest and restoration” type of exercises and staying away from more “aggressive” styles.

Suggested Yoga Poses to Try for Back Pain

Annie Hauser from Everyday Health offers a list of seven different exercises will not only help with stretching the muscles, but can help increase flexibility and increase blood flow to those muscles which can help loosen them up. These poses include:

1. Cat and Cow (which serves as a warm up and will help loosen your back)

2. Downward-Facing Dog (which will help to stretch your hamstrings)

3. Upward Forward Bend (will help to release tight hamstring and back muscles)

4. Child’s Pose (which will help elongate your back and aids in relieving stress)

5. Pigeon Pose (which helps to relax your hips by stretching your rotators)

6. Triangle Pose (which helps to lengthen your torso muscles)

7. Upward-Facing Dog (which helps to stretch and engage key muscles)

Final Thoughts

This article just scratches the surface of the many benefits from using yoga to treat back pain and we recommend that you do your own research in addition to speaking to your doctor for the right approach that will work for you.


Yoga Statistics: Staggering Growth Shows Ever-increasing Popularity

Image Credits:

Woman with Back Pain [ID 136596338 © Kaspars Grinvalds |]

Woman Doing Yoga on Bed [ID 145227090 © Galina Zhigalova |]

Woman Doing Cat and Cow Pose [ID 92836561 © Undrey |]